By National Constitution Center staff:
Republican Senator Ted Cruz has announced his candidacy for President, again raising the issue of how people born in other countries qualify for office under the Constitution.
In the case of Cruz, he was born in Canada in 1970, and his father was born in Cuba and his mother was born as a United States citizen in Delaware).
The Constitution’s Natural Born Citizenship Clause states that “no person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President.”
The scholarly consensus about Cruz is that he’s most likely eligible to run for the office of President and serve in the White House for several reasons.
Sarah Helene Duggin from Catholic University, who is an expert on this topic, wrote at length for us about a potential Cruz candidacy back in October 2013, and she explained why scholars believe Cruz is eligible.
Duggin said that the “consensus rests on firm foundations” based on the intent of the naturalization clause, as stated in a letter in 1787 from John Jay to George Washington; the language of the 1790 Naturalization Act; and the 14-year residency requirement in the Constitution’s Article II.
So why is there even a debate about a Cruz candidacy? Two significant factors that allow for some doubt are the facts that constitutional convention didn’t discuss the exact meaning of the words “natural born citizen” and the Supreme Court has never ruled on that issue.
“For Senator Cruz—who was born in Calgary, Alberta, to an American mother and a Cuban father—the question is more complicated,” Duggin said back in October 2013.
“There is a strong argument that anyone who acquires United States citizenship at birth, whether by virtue of the 14th Amendment or by operation of federal statute, qualifies as natural born. The Supreme Court, however, has never ruled on the meaning of the natural-born citizenship requirement.
In the absence of a definitive Supreme Court ruling—or a constitutional amendment—the parameters of the clause remain uncertain.”
Cruz isn’t the first person to run for President who wasn’t born in the United States.
In 2008, John McCain faced questions since he was born in the Panama Canal Zone.
And Mitt Romney’s father, George Romney, was born in Mexico, and he faced questions during his 1968 presidential campaign.
In February, Cruz again addressed questions about his qualifications for office at the CPAC political meetings.
“I was born in Calgary. My mother was an American citizen by birth,” Cruz said. “Under federal law, that made me an American citizen by birth. The Constitution requires that you be a natural-born citizen.”
Two prominent legal authorities, Neal Katyal and Paul Clement, said in a Harvard Law Review article that “there is no question that Senator Cruz has been a citizen from birth and is thus a ‘natural born Citizen’ within the meaning of the Constitution.”
“As Congress has recognized since the Founding, a person born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent is generally a U.S. citizen from birth with no need for naturalization. And the phrase “natural born Citizen” in the Constitution encompasses all such citizens from birth,” they added. “Thus, an individual born to a U.S. citizen parent — whether in California or Canada or the Canal Zone — is a U.S. citizen from birth and is fully eligible to serve as President if the people so choose.”
In the long run, the debate would be settled by a constitutional change.“The best solution would be to amend the Constitution, as many legislators on both sides of the aisle have proposed over the years. In the absence of an amendment, the clause should be narrowly interpreted,” Duggin said back in 2013.